Student Research Group Presents Virtual Expo Spotlighting Student Research Opportunities


Philadelphia – Research underway within Penn Dental Medicine and how students can be part of it was spotlighted as the School’s Vernon Brightman Research Society (VBRS) presented its inaugural VBRS Research Expo. The event was held virtually in six sessions, running between Oct. 19 and 27.

“Our goal with the Expo was to build awareness of the different research activities at the School and connect students to faculty,” says Alisa Lee (D’22), who along with Kailin Baechle (D’22) serves as co-president of the VBRS, the School’s primary student research group. “Despite the pandemic, there continues to be ways for us to engage in research, and we wanted to encourage our fellow students to explore the many exciting research opportunities available at the School.”

“We were pleased with the student interest,” adds Baechle, who reported that approximately 60 students attended the Expo. “We hope it will lead to more student involvement in research; I know being part of research has greatly enhanced my dental school experience.”

A total of 19 faculty members participated in the Expo, presenting on overview of their current research projects, while also sharing their perspective on research, teaching, and being an academician clinician. Each of the five faculty sessions included a question-and-answer period and individual break out options where participating students could connect privately with the faculty.

Faculty presenters included: Drs. Yu-Cheng Chang, Dana Graves, Kang Ko, Rodrigo Neiva, and Esra Sahingur from the Department of Periodontics; Drs. Henry Daniell, Nataliya Balashova, Kathleen Battaglia, Claire Mitchell, and Hydar Ali from the Department of Basic and Translational Sciences; Drs. Francis Mante, Fusun Ozer, Yu Zhang, and Dean Mark Wolff from the Department of Preventive and Restorative Sciences; Drs. Eugene Ko and Temitope Omolehinwa from the Department of Oral Medicine; and Drs. Chider Chen and Qunzhou Zhang from the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; Dr. Frank Setzer from the Department of Endodontics.

A student panel of eight students also presented on their experiences in a variety of research programs, including the School’s Research Honors Program , Summer Research Program, and Doctor of Science in Dentistry Program.

“The discussions were very lively,” notes Dr. Esra Sahingur, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Student Research, who participated in the Expo. “The VBRS put a lot of effort into planning and running the event, and it was very successful and well received both by faculty and students. Penn Dental Medicine is committed to providing opportunities for our students to participate in research. This is an important element of our mission to develop the next generation clinician scientists and leaders of our profession.”

Lee explains that although the Expo was initially planned as a virtual solution to the group’s annual Research Mixer, its success has shed light on a more effective platform for faculty to share their research with a greater number of students. The VBRS plans to continue to promote student research involvement at the school by hosting virtual events, and when the situation permits, by hosting in-person events as well.

“Opportunities for student participation in research are available throughout the four years of dental education at Penn Dental,” adds Dr. Francis Mante, faculty advisor of the VBRS. “We encourage students to contact faculty researchers to discuss how to balance a pursuit of their research interests and academic schedules.”

The VBRS is Penn Dental Medicine’s chapter of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) National Student Research Group. Questions about the event or the group can be sent to